Friday, October 30, 2009

Operation PURGE

It’s not for the faint of heart! And it sure is a lot of work!! Unfortunately, one of the must do’s of making the transition from house to RV is getting rid of stuff…lots and lots of stuff. We have begun this process in earnest. We are having a our first major garage sale this weekend. It may seem like a strange time to have a garage sale in Colorado…that’s what I thought initially too. Especially after shoveling 2 feet of snow over the last 2 days! But we thought this would be the perfect time to dispose of winter clothing and Christmas decorations. Although some of the winter items we're rethinking, such as my heavy duty snow boots!

We’ve been prepping for this sale for weeks. First, there is the task of going through the closets, garage, and basement to identify items we’re willing to part with and sorting out the sellable versus the trash. That alone is tough. We’ve kept this stuff this long because we thought there would be a need for it “someday”. Isn’t that how we all find ourselves buried under so much stuff? What if that “someday” shows up tomorrow? Then there are the emotions to deal with too. “Things” evoke memories and sometimes it’s hard to remember that the memories will still exist long after the things are gone. And then there are the things that were gifts. Some may even be homemade. And you feel guilty about parting with them, even though they may have been shoved in the back of the closet for years. Even once you get past all of this, you're still not ready to open the doors.

Once all the stuff is sorted, it's time to have to figure out how much to ask for it. This is hard because you perceive value in each of these things. After all, you spent your hard earned money on accumulating these things and you don’t want to just give them away. But it's important to remain focused on the primary goal of the sale – to reduce, to eliminate, to purge! So things need to be priced to sell and often that can be far below what they're really worth.

Although I’d rather be doing something more fun with my free time, I’m willing to put in the time and effort. Especially since I know what reward is awaiting me. And surprisingly, it hasn’t been all that emotional…yet! I’m sure that part will get harder when we really start getting down to the nitty gritty. So far, this is still all ‘excess’ stuff we really haven’t used much in years. The harder part for me has been trying to figure out how to price the stuff. A lot of this is good quality, name brand stuff. And maybe because I know that we are moving into a life of significantly reduced income, I want to make every dollar I can. Finding the right balance is difficult. I guess we just have to hope that the law of averages plays out – some things will be a steal while others will bring in more than expected. And I have to continually remind myself that if we don’t sell it now, we’ll probably just end up giving it to Goodwill, so every dollar we make now is a bonus!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It is all so overwhelming! There are so many things to consider when transitioning to become a fulltimer…more than I ever imagined. Fifth wheel or motorhome? What kind of tow or towed vehicle? Which options are critical vs which are nice-to-haves? Which state to establish residency? Which mail forwarding service to use? What health insurance plan? How to support ourselves? And those are just the questions relating to our future life. We have to get there first by selling our house and all of our stuff, which requires a whole different set of decisions!

To add to the difficulty, there are no right answers. Everyone has opinions and everyone’s situation is somewhat different. For some, a motorhome is the way to go; for others, only a fifth wheel will do. Each has their pros and cons. And each requires some amount of trade-off. We are finding that this is true for almost every decision we have to make. Although having options is a good thing, sometimes I think it would be easier if there was only one way to go (especially considering how decision-deficient we are) !

So here are some of the decisions we've been pondering recently:

Type of rig: pretty much since we made the decision to go fulltime, we were set on a motorhome. I guess there was a sense of comfort since we've owned 2 motorhomes and have towed a car. But as we learned more about fifth wheels, we have completely changed our minds. Although I am nervous about towing such a big unit (even though everything I've read and heard says that they're easy), there are many reasons so many fulltimers go this route. First of all, they have a more homey feel. The floorplans tend to be more open with more space for both living and storage. This is something that we have to seriously consider with an 80-pound dog who needs his soft bed and a cat with a litter box. We don't want to have to be tripping over them or their stuff. The fifth wheel also seems to be more suited for staying in one place for longer periods of time, which we believe we will do. There will be the occassional overnighters and minimal day stays, but for the most part we anticipate staying put anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. There are a lot of other benefits too but I could probably write an entire blog on just those, so I'll move on for now.

Tow vehicle: the decision of a fifth wheel led to the need to educate ourselves about diesel trucks, not something I ever thought I'd be doing. The size of the fifth wheels we're considering will most likely require a 1-ton dually pickup. And even if we thought we could get by with a 3/4 ton, everything we've read suggests getting more truck than you need, so we'll probably just make the investment up front. It all gets very complicated with weights of not only the trailer but all the stuff you pack into it, including water and gas. I'm not sure I really understand it all, but I'm learning more everyday! And here is one of those trade-offs I mentioned. I'm not thrilled with having to drive a big truck as my primary vehicle. A lot of fulltimers with fifth wheels end up having a 2nd car, which the 2nd person drives separately. We may decide to go this route eventually, but we don't really like the idea of having to drive separately or having the expense of a 2nd car, so to start out we're going to stick to one vehicle.

State of residency: we've just started looking into this, but just like everything else, there are many factors to consider. State income tax is a big one. Because we're going to be working, we don't want to be 'double-dipped'. Both your state of residency and the state you worked in require you to pay state income tax. That's a big reason why people set up residency in a state which doesn't have any state income tax. There are several of these, but TX and SD are the most popular. Your state of residency also affects your insurance rates, both health insurance and vehicle insurance. We still need to do more research on this - I don't know how much of an impact that will be. Another big factor is how easy it is to set up residency knowing that you don't plan to be there physically. Voting, renewing licenses, etc all have to be considered. Also, I believe some states have stricter rules on establishing residency. And then, of course, the availability of a reliable mail forwarding service has to be considered. Right now, we're leaning toward TX because of the Escapees club services, but we've also thought about SD so as we learn more about the insurance, that may cause us to change our minds.

So you can see with just the few topics above, how much energy is put into every decision. I can't imagine anyone being able to make such a major transition in the spur of a moment. We frequently find ourselves getting frustrated because even if we come to some conclusions, many of the decisions can’t be executed yet. It seems like so many are dependent upon something else happening, and ultimately most are dependent upon selling the house. It just doesn't feel like things are progressing as quickly as we would like them to, but I guess that's just impatience speaking. So as hard as it is, we're trying to stay focused on what we can do now - get rid of stuff, get rid of more stuff, and then even more! This is not the fun part of the journey, but I know it has to be done and the more we can get done now, the less it will stress us out later.

My head is spinning, as it does almost everynight. I'm sure looking forward to reaching the simpler life!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breaking The News (Emotional Aspects cont.)

As I discussed in a previous post, there are many emotional aspects to making such a life changing decision. One of my biggest points of anxiety, so far, has been how to ‘break the news’ to our immediate family. Until a few weeks ago, our decision to go full-time existed only between us. We talked about it extensively, but had not told anyone else (with the exception of joining the RV-Dreams forum and we didn’t yet know any of those people personally!). But by keeping it secret, it didn’t feel real. So we tested the waters by telling a few friends. This felt pretty safe because we were fairly certain we would receive positive responses. Then we attended the RV Dreams rally (see my previous post) where we knew we would have the utmost support. That really catapulted our dream into reality, so now it is time to start sharing our plans with our loved ones and I am nervous about the reactions we will receive.

I don’t know why this feels so hard. After all, what is the worst that could happen? Will I be told that I am foolish? Probably. Will they be disappointed? Maybe. Will they disown me? Doubtful. Will they support our decision? I don’t know, but hopefully they will eventually come to accept it. Will they still love us? Yes.

Part of me feels like a child again…seeking approval and not wanting to disappoint. But we left childhood long ago and have been making our own decisions for many years now. So why should it really matter? After all we’re not asking for approval. We would very much like to have support and understanding, but even if we don’t get that, we’ll still move forward with our plans. I’m sure I’ve made other decisions that resulted in disappointment and I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes, but isn’t that just part of life?

I appreciate that most reactions will stem primarily out of concern for our well-being. I know our families don’t want to see us make a mistake which will result in our suffering. Although we don’t think this is a mistake, I can understand how some may disagree. I also accept that it may be difficult for some to ever be comfortable with the idea of such an uncommon lifestyle. It certainly isn’t right for everyone. But we’re not asking anyone else to live this lifestyle. We believe that it is right for us and we’re the ones willing to give it a shot.

But all of this rationalizing doesn’t alleviate the anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making more of this than there really needs to be. That sure would be nice. Either way, I know the time has come to “bite the bullet”. And I hope this blog will help in the aftermath. Providing a resource for those who are struggling with our decision was one of the main reasons I decided to start a blog. I often find it easier to share my thoughts and feelings in writing and I hope that some of what I write makes sense to others. And even if it doesn’t, it’s been good for me!

So here it goes. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 RV Dreams Rally - October 7-11

We just returned from the RV Dreams Rally in Kerrville, TX and what a great event it was! RV Dreams is a website that I stumbled across earlier this year. It was started by a couple, Howard and Linda Payne, who in their mid-40’s did exactly what we are planning to do – chucked it all and hit the road. They’ve been full-timing for 4+ years now and have built a tremendous following. From the first day I found the website, there was a strong connection. As I read through their decision to make such a radical lifestyle change, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Here was someone who was telling my story. How did he get inside my head? I was so flabbergasted that I sent the Paynes an email that day thanking them for putting themselves out there. The website is full of information and I continue to learn more everyday. I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to learn more about the RV lifestyle check it out: Howard continues to post a daily journal and the website also contains a very active forum.

We decided to attend the rally because we thought it would be a great way to “get our hands wet”, learn from those who are actually doing it, and we wanted to meet Howard and Linda in person. We got all that we expected and much more! We discovered that RV Dreams is so much more than a website…it is a family. A few of the attendees had met in person previously, but for the most part people had only communicated online or were new to the family. We met so many nice people, about half of whom are currently full-timing and half who are wanna-bes like us. As we had hoped, we did learn a lot, but I think the biggest thing we left with is the reassurance that we can successfully do this. The support is amazing. It’s like this underground community that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. Everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and their experiences. But more than that, they put themselves out there and are only a forum post, an email or a phone call away. We expect to have our share of stumbles, but knowing that we’ll always have someone to help us get back up on our feet (or our wheels, as it may be) is truly comforting.

So many of you are probably wondering what an RV Rally consists of. Well, I’m sure they’re all different, but here’s a rundown of ours:
  • We arrived Wednesday about noon. The afternoon was pretty open, with the check-in running from 12-5. That gave us time to finish getting set up and meet a couple of our neighbors. Dinner that evening was a catered Texas BBQ, which was followed by a “get-to-know-you” exercise of RVing tips and tricks. Wow, did we learn a lot from that! It all ended around 10 and we were tired, so we hit the sack.
  • Thursday started at 9 with seminars on Full-timing Preparations, Emotional Aspects of Full-timing, and The Cost of Full-Timing. We had the rest of the afternoon to prepare for the chili cook-off that night. 15 attendees, including Tracy, participated in the cook-off. The judges got a sample from each pot and then they were open to the rest of us. Tracy didn’t place in the top 3, but we had fun and enjoyed a lot of good chili. The evening ended with “Your Favorite RV Accessory” Show and Tell. Once again, a great educational experience!
  • Friday contained seminars on No Right Way to Fulltime, Buying an RV, and Packing for Fulltiming. The afternoon was filled with some vendor demonstrations and preparing for the potluck that evening. I had volunteered Tracy and myself to coordinate the potluck. Although there really wasn’t that much work involved, we felt some responsibility for a successful evening. Why we worried (ok, we didn’t worry that much), I don’t know! Of course it was a success. We had a ton of delicious food and I don’t think anyone walked away hungry. The evening’s entertainment was RV Humor with Howard (as in Howard Payne, mentioned above). I think he was a little nervous but it turned out great. Laughter aplenty. Another great day.
  • Saturday – could this really be our last full day? – started off with seminars on Working on the Road, Choosing a Campground, and Boondocking/Solar (boondocking is living without hookups to electric, water or sewer). The afternoon was filled with rig walk-throughs. Many of the attendees were nice enough to open their rigs and allow us to see their floor plans and customizations they made. Yet another eye-opening experience. Prior to this, Tracy and I were pretty much set against a 5th wheel. After towing the pop-up, we really didn’t want to tow something that big, although I know it’s completely different. But after learning a little more about them, we are now rethinking our decision. There are a lot of pros to a 5th wheel, and although we’re not totally sold, we will definitely keep our options open. The evening commenced with a catered dinner of a Texas-sized pork chop – yes, Tracy was not excited, but she was able to get an extra potato and salad – and then a square dance. We were on the floor for almost every dance and had a blast. And I’m sure we provided a lot of humor for the spectators!
  • Sunday morning offered a catered breakfast, a quick good-bye message, lots of hugs and a few tears. It was really hard to leave, but we had a long drive ahead of us. We wanted to get as many miles behind us on Sunday so that we’d get home early enough on Monday to get the rig winterized.
The drive was long -- boy, do we look forward to the day that we don't have such tight timelines -- but the trip was well worth it. Every mile we got closer to home, I felt a little more depressed. We always experience a little sadness dropping the rig off in storage after a trip, but this was worse. Prior to this trip, we had a dream that we were pretty certain we would achieve someday, but it still felt pretty far out of reach. The Rally gave us a few days to actually live the dream and it was everything we envisioned and more…but then we had to hand it back. It’s like being given the cookie your mouth has been watering for, but only to be allowed to take one small bite. We had a taste of the good life and we want more!

The next 6-9 months are going to be very difficult. We know we have a lot to do and hopefully that will make the days go by quickly, but it’s going to be really hard sitting at work every day knowing that we could be making so much more progress at home. But we’ll get there, one way or another.

As we try to focus on the positives, we are pleased with ourselves for taking one more step closer to achieving our dream. Normally, we’d shy away from these types of events. Being a bit timid, it is not always easy for us to reach out and meet new people, but this group made it easy and welcomed us with open arms. While RVers are generally known as being friendly folk, the RV Dreams group is special and we are proud to call ourselves family members.